Sisters, we have spent far too long operating under the myths and lies surrounding self-care. We have heard the oxygen mask analogy countless times (Make sure yours is on first, girl!) and have read an endless number of inspirational quotes and self-help books, but simply consuming this content will get us nowhere.
In addition to shifting our mindset and beginning to believe the truths around caring for ourselves, we need tangible tools to actually get us there. We need practices we can easily put in place, because let’s face it, we are busy. In this post, I will walk you through five principles of self-care and tangible takeaways to support you in implementing these in your life today. This is not easy, but the beautiful part is this – self-care is simple.
1. You have time for self-care
When we see another woman’s social media post about attending a yoga class or savoring a cup of coffee on the patio, we often wonder where in the world she’s getting all this excess time. We determine she must work from home or have an extremely flexible schedule or that she must not have a job at all. In the midst of our crazy lives, we cannot fathom how we might find similar moments in our own schedules, or what we could possibly give up to practice caring for our own bodies, minds and souls.
Here’s what I’ve found to be true: it isn’t always about giving something up, but rather a simple need to shuffle a few things around. I don’t know what it will be for you. I’m not sure which activities take up the precious minutes and hours of your day, but a good place to start is with baseline data.
Collect baseline data. How do you even begin? For one week, track your days. Write down everything you do each day. Keep track of each activity, from the seemingly trivial to the big moments of life. It’s only a week of your life – you can do this! At the end of the week, reflect on how you spent your time. How many of these practices and activities bring you joy, heal your soul, fuel your passion? Sister, I know you might be thinking that taking out the trash doesn’t bring you joy, but does a clean house refresh your soul? Then taking out the trash might just be a necessary use of your time. With that said, be ruthless with your time and honest with yourself. Find pockets of your life you could spend in different ways. Use these to care for your body, your mind, your soul.
And remember – your job is to be better than only one person – you. That’s it. Be better than you were yesterday. Compare your data to YOUR DATA yesterday, because if you don’t, you may be comparing your current data, at the beginning of your journey, to her data in the middle of her journey.
2. Self-care is for everyone – the caretakers, the achievers, and most importantly, YOU
I am an achiever to the core. Achievers are an interesting bunch. We set goals. We make them happen. We are pragmatic. But (and this is a big but), we need to make sure what we’re going after is deep down, really and truly what we want. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in doing all the things, we look back and realize half of all the things weren’t meant for us.
I’ve come to know these parts of me. I’ve lived in this body for more than thirty years and have accomplished a multitude of things because of who I am. At the same time, I’ve placed self-care at the bottom of my to-do list all too often. While I’m reaching for success, I’m also burying any semblance of care, pushing it down deep where it won’t get in the way of my achievements.
Over the years I’ve come to realize those who are holistically successful are usually the very best at taking care of themselves. They know the road to achieving all of our goals is long and winding, and the ONLY way we will be able to keep pressing forward is if we are nourishing our bodies, minds and souls along the way.
Write a list of your current goals. Now, narrow your list to encompass your top three. Here comes difficult part – pick one goal you are going to focus your energy on. One. Goal. There are times when I’m especially inspired and I begin to chase three, four, five dreams at once. But the truth is, we cannot do everything, at least not all at the same time. And we really can’t chase every dream at once while also ensuring we are taking care of ourselves. There will be seasons of busyness, yes, but in these seasons of busyness, we must also embrace self-care.
3. Self-care does not equal self-indulgence
For quite some time, I believed the lie that self-care consisted solely of frequent massages and weeklong vacations to fancy spa resorts. I equated it with hours-long binges of Netflix on the couch or cozied up in my bed. Self-care, I decided, was selfish and indulgent. Sure, I attended the random workout class, journaled on occasion and read perhaps one book for myself during the school year, but overall well-being was lacking from my regularly scheduled life.
And when I found myself at the very end of my rope day after day, I was surprised. I wondered how I got to this point, how I arrived at this place of grasping for straws. Does this sound like you? We grind and hustle day after day, thinking we couldn’t possibly indulge in any sort of care for ourselves, and then are amazed to find ourselves living a life without passion or zeal.
Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be fancy or decadent. Don’t get me wrong – it definitely can be. Massages and pedicures and spa weekends are on my schedule as much as earthly possible; however, this isn’t real life for many of us. For the vast majority of us, self-care needs to show up in much simpler ways. Today, commit to doing one thing just for you. Perhaps you make a cup of hot tea and enjoy it while reading your book. Maybe you go for a walk on a crisp, fall evening. Meditate. Take a yoga class. Go on a date night. Self-care does not equate to self-indulgence, and really – it shouldn’t. Self-care isn’t about indulging; it’s about attending to ourselves and nurturing the gift we have been given.
4. Saying yes to yourself is more important than saying yes to everyone else
I am an educator, and in my fifth year of teaching, I started getting asked to join all the education things. Though I previously served on various committees, this was the year the powers that be deemed me seasoned enough to take on additional leadership roles. And, boy did they come fast and furious. At this point, I was newish to the teaching profession. I felt honored to be given these opportunities, but even more, I firmly believed a no now would mean zero chances to say yes later. I believed if I carved out space and intentionally left room to take care of myself, I may, in fact, be hurting my career in the long run. But, this isn’t true. A no now means a no now, simple as that.
Now you might be thinking if you pass up an opportunity now, it truly won’t be there later. You might be right. That exact same opportunity may not be there later on, but every good and meaningful endeavor in this world will not turn its back on you because you said no to one thing one time. It just won’t.
Instead of heeding this wisdom, my twenty-something-year-old self said yes to everything I was asked to do. Though it was all good work, it wasn’t all my work. In that season, I was spread so thin, lacking the capability to be fully present in anything, lacking the time to effectively take care of myself.
Remember every yes is a no to something else. When you’re asked to take on something extra, take time to consider the particulars of what this will require of you. Map out the amount of time it will take, the time outside the workday it will require of you, the physical, emotional, or mental toll it may take. Now, reflect on all the things you will have to say no to if you say this yes. Are you willing to give them up? If it’s just for a season, it might be yes. If it’s giving up your nightly TV time, it’s probably worth it. BUT, if you waver or just know deep down this yes isn’t for the right reasons, say no. Say no every time. Visualize yourself saying yes to playing at the park with your kids or reading that book you’ve had on your shelf for months or attending that conference, or whatever it is this no will allow you to say yes to. Repeat that over and over in your head if it makes the no easier to get out. You are the boss of you. Girl, if you want to say no, just do it.
5. You are worth it.
Sisters, you are worth it. You are worth taking time for. But this isn’t the narrative we operate within, is it? And that, my friends, is a shame. We walk through our lives thinking our child is worth it, our spouse is worth it, our colleague is worth it, our fill-in-the-blank here is worth it, but for some crazy reason we aren’t. The notion that the rest of humanity deserves to be taken care of while we continually run ourselves ragged is simply not true. We must begin to believe that we are worth it. We must begin to see our power and our glory. We must demand from ourselves and from those around us the time to renew our minds, our bodies, and our souls.
You know that baseline data you collected in Principle #1? Take it out again, reflect on the pockets of time you opened up in your schedule by removing toxic or unnecessary activities, and schedule self-care. Schedule it. Put it down on paper. Write it on your calendar. Make it a point to spend 30 minutes each day taking care of yourself. What we need to do next is often the part that illudes us – we have to follow through.
Follow through, girl. You are worth it.
Abby Weiland is wife to her hubby Justin, educator, student, and all-around advocate for women and the critical role of self-care. Right now, she’s in the midst of her doctoral program in curriculum and instruction, is living a long-distance marriage as Justin and her both pursue their big dreams. Follow her on IG @abby.weiland